Given she has graced our screens for nearly three decades, it’s easy to feel as though we really know Ada Nicodemou. Hers is a face that is beautiful, certainly, but also comfortingly familiar, and each time it pops up we can rely on being both entertained and soothed. And yet what do we really know about the off-screen life of a woman so many of us feel as though we’ve grown up with? Well, it’s certainly one that is refreshingly normal, and that of a real girl’s girl, whether she’s chatting about her own awkward teen years, being made to feel hopeless by lockdown-enforced homeschooling duties, the joys of laundry room organising to soothe a troubled mind or her willingness to try pretty much any beauty treatment or product.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

“I had a really nice, normal upbringing. Everyone worked really hard, and there was a lot of food, haha!

My parents were both from Cyprus, although they actually migrated separately and then met after they arrived here. I definitely got my work ethic and strong sense of family from them. When I was 12, or even a bit earlier, once I finished school for the day it was home to do a lot of the cooking and cleaning and housework and take care of my little brother. I really helped to bring him up, and I must have done a good job because he’s the sensible one now… I mean, he’s an accountant! Our relationship has flipped over the years; he sort of feels like my big brother now. In terms of my overall attitude and approach to life, I’m a bit Benjamin Button; the older I get, the more relaxed I am.

With her son, Johnas
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

I think an experience that is pretty universally challenging is just growing up and getting through your teenage years. I found it a confusing time, especially as my parents had broken up.

You’re finding out who you are, figuring out your changing body, arguing with your mum… I remember her saying to me all the time “I don’t know why you’re so aggressive!” I hope to God Johnas won’t go through that! It’s a time where there’s a lot of angst, isn’t it? I think it was helpful to move through that by focusing on what I could learn, and a big thing for me was figuring out how to get really comfortable with myself. I used to feel like I had to be around people all the time, and fill my day, whereas now I relish alone time and love my own company. It’s what I missed the most in lockdown, so I made sure to take lots of lovely long walks to get that time. I think as you get older you generally realise how precious that time is. As a teen, the thought of going to the movies alone would horrify me, whereas by the time I was in my twenties I had realised it was a real pleasure.

I have to caveat this by saying I don’t live alone, which I think would have been an incredible challenge during lockdown, but one of the biggest lessons I learned during all those months was how much I need and appreciate having some alone time. Most of my life I have done really long drives to work, so I have had that time to myself built in to every day. During lockdown, I’d go on my walks just to get time to listen to my podcasts! I love anything Mamamia produces. And SmartLess is hysterical, absolutely laugh out loud funny. If you haven’t tried it before, start with the George Clooney episode… you can thank me later.

I’m a real homebody. I love making (and eating!) food, having friends over, and just being a normal girl. I mean, getting all dressed up is fun and glamorous, don’t get me wrong, but prepping for a red carpet is so much work. I’d almost always rather be at home organising the house.

You should see my laundry: it’s my absolute favourite room. For ages I was Pinteresting laundries and I’d just go into mine and look around and sigh sadly. So I finally bit the bullet and re-did it and now it makes me so happy. If my house and cupboards are organised, my mind is organised. We’ve been in this house over a year, but when we first moved in it was right when I had just started back at work, so lockdown gave me the nesting time I wanted back then. I’m just one of those people that gets so much joy from pottering around doing boring house things – it might sound bizarre but I love it!

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Acting was definitely not in my plan. I was a dancer growing up, but otherwise I was a good Greek girl, and was going to go to uni, get a serious job, the whole bit. I definitely wasn’t going to be an actor!

One day I was watching Home & Away, like I did religiously, and they announced they were running a competition to get a part on the show. I was a pretty confident young girl, so I got the details, entered, and got quite far into the process. It came down to me and one other girl, Laura Vazquez – who is now Head of Hair & Makeup for the show – and she got the part! I told my dancing teacher about how close I got to getting the job, and she told her mum, who I didn’t know at the time was an agent. Her mum decided to sign me and then I started out doing work as an extra. My very first job was on Home & Away, where I saw Laura doing her competition part!

I eventually auditioned for Heartbreak High, and that was when it all happened. It was an incredible, unexpected experience: we filmed for twelve weeks and then it just took off.

To this day I am so very grateful for that experience. It really holds a special place in my part. I had never acted before, and I learned everything I know and use now on that set. We had a dramaturg with us the whole time, and we all worked on the script for two weeks prior to shooting. The crew worked around our acting process.

When I finished that show and went to work on Breakers, I had to do a crying scene and thought I’d have 45 minutes to be quiet and get in the zone, with no one on set – ha! It wasn’t until then that I realised just how unique Heartbreak High was. It was my drama school, and we were taught the basic things, like how to really listen, that are so important as an actor. It was great for me to do something like that as my first proper role, to get to create a character who was absolutely nothing like me. I really had to think about who she was, to have an attitude, even to walk in a different way. I mean, I had zero experience. I think of that time so fondly; it truly shaped who I am today. I am still friends with people from the show, too. I was the youngest and it was so raw, and they were all so great to me. Now, when I work with young kids, I am the complete mother hen. I tell them to save their money!

Rocking a subtle, low key disco look with DWTS dance partner Aric Yegudkin
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Even after doing this for nearly thirty years, I definitely still have imposter syndrome.

My becoming an actor really did feel like it just happened by accident, and even now I still say I am acting by accident. I started when I was 16, and I’m 44 now, so I guess I have the background, but it’s not something I can rely on. I’ve got no qualifications, I haven’t been to uni, and when a role opens up, there are hundreds of other people who want it too. There’s absolutely nothing stable about what I do, and our industry is so tiny here in Australia that there’s only ever so much work available.

Performing the jive on DWTS in an adorable vintage look
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Dancing With The Stars is both as fun as it looks, and as hard as it looks.

I did season three in 2005, and then in 2021 I was given the opportunity to come back and compete in the All Stars version. I so wanted to do that, because I have an A-type personality, and I wanted a second chance to feel like I really got it right. The first time around I found so difficult, because I was doing something I wasn’t great at, which I really wanted to perfect, but I couldn’t put in the hours I needed to do so because I also had a full time job. I absolutely nitpicked every performance. I did have an amazing experience overall, but I didn’t enjoy the process.

Showing off her hard-won 2005 DWTS trophy
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Everything was different the second time around. To start, it meant so much more to me because by then I was a mum, and I really wanted my little boy to see everything that was involved; the struggle as well as all the glam parts.

Even though I was even more time-poor for All Stars, as I was still acting full-time, but now giving the dancing twice as much time as before and being a mum, I absolutely loved it. And my partner got to see me doing it this time, which was lovely.

Performing is the best high you will ever have, whether or not anyone is watching. Even if I’m just being daggy singing or dancing at home, I’ll sing my little heart out! My son and I have disco nights every Friday night. We’ve been doing it since he was old enough to groove. We turn off all the normal lights, turn on our disco light, turn the music up loud, and boogie. Seeing him have so much fun is just wonderful. My partner loves getting involved as well. He’ll pick songs of a slightly different era, like Queen and Bowie, whereas my son and I are more R&B. And of course being a kid, my son knows all the latest music, and he teaches us about that so I know what to say to the kids at school!

Beating lockdown stircraziness with bush walks
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Johnas teaches me so much – I adore being his mum.

I have got so much enjoyment from being home with him during lockdown. The downside, of course, was home schooling, which was so hard and made me feel dumb. (“How did I ever do basic maths?” “What is a fraction?”) He’s about to turn nine, and he’s like my buddy now. We go for walks and have these chats which are so funny, or he’ll ask really interesting questions. It’s a nice age. My brother has just had a little girl, who’s six months old, and I look at her now and can’t remember my son being that small. It’s all gone so fast. I think to myself, “when did he start to walk?” I like to blame it on how you are sleep deprived and just exhausted the whole time, so who can be expected to remember anything?

Celebrating niece Sofia’s first Greek Easter
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

I have my skincare down to a pretty tight routine now that I find works really well for me. It’s largely based on the Rationale system, and a prescription retinoid.

In the morning, I cleanse, use Rationale #1 and #2, and then moisturise. Moisturiser is the thing I am happy to switch up and experiment with. Then lastly SPF: I like sunscreens by Dermalogica and La Roche-Posay.

At night, I’ll use Rationale #5 and #6. A few nights a week I use Retrieve, which is a prescription retinoid, but then other nights I leave the actives alone so I don’t overdo it. If I use Retrieve, I like to pair that with an oil for some extra nourishment after all the hard work that it is making my skin do. And I pop on a bit of eye cream.

When I’m not working, I like to use a BB or CC cream, either the Miracle BB Cream from MCo Beauty or the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC +Cream SPF50, and I’ll throw on some mascara.

I used to be obsessed with Chanel Inimitable mascara [Ed. note: discontinued], and I really like the Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara, the tubing one. Or if I don’t want to use something fancy, I’ll go for MCo Beauty XtendLash, which is so much cheaper, and given that mascaras go bad so easily, it makes sense to go for something more affordable. And then I’ll throw on whatever lip balm I have to hand. That’s it, honestly. I try and give my face a bit of a break from the work makeup.

Bringing glamour (gloriously) back
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

Much as I tend to know what products I like and what suits my skin or the look I’m going for, I love finding out about what’s new. I mean, give me a product and I’ll try it!

For when I’m making an effort, I love Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, which I’ve been using for years; it’s just beautiful. If I’m doing a special eye look, I’ll use Urban Decay Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette, which I love. I like the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette, which contains really nice illuminating powders. Natasha Denona Blush Duo Palettes are beautiful, and even though they’re expensive they last for ages. I’ve been trying to figure out how to put on lashes by myself, but it’s so hard! I haven’t mastered that yet, but in an ideal world that’s what I would do. I’m obsessed with Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk. I never go through an entire lipstick, but I have gone through a complete one of those. I buy it for everyone. I don’t do eye liner, because I’ve had it tattooed on! I need to get it re-done, actually. It’s just a tiny, fine line and it’s been excellent. So all I need to do generally when I am doing an eye look is pop some black or brown pencil in the waterline, which is so quick and easy.

My favourite makeup tips aren’t anything fancy; they’re the basics, but they make such a difference and we don’t pay enough attention to them.

For instance, I’m a massive fan of properly blending. I like to really take the the time to blend my foundation in really well, always using a brush. It might seem counterintuitive but it actually looks more natural and dewy, and I feel like it makes my skin look better overall. And for eyes, you have to do mascara, curl your lashes, then more mascara. Let it settle a little in between each step, and don’t go too heavy. I particularly love a heated curler, and the little ModelCo one, the Turbo Lashwand Heated Eyelash Curler, is so good. I know some people only do it before the curler or only do it after, but I am here to tell you, you have to do the double mascara-ing!

Red carpet ready with partner Adam Rigby
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @ADANICODEMOU

I’m Greek, so yes, I get laser hair removal, haha.

There’s a couple of other treatments I get regularly. I see Amy Jean every eight weeks for lash lifts, which are great if you’re like me and can’t figure out how to put individual lashes on. It still looks very natural, but then if you want something more, all you need is mascara and it looks like you have fake lashes.

I get laser facials at Concept Cosmetic Medicine. I love getting facials, I find it good for my soul. I went to Rationale for a treatment before lockdown, and I loved it, highly recommend that. I’ve been using Dermalogica products for years, and I recently went to their head office in northern Sydney for a treatment, which was great, too.

With beauty, I’ll flit about to different salons for different treatments, and am not really committed to any one thing. My hair is a totally different story, though. I go to Rose Saffiotti, and only to Rose.

She used to be the head of hair and makeup for Home & Away, so she has been colouring and cutting my hair for ten or fifteen years. She’ll be off for weeks at a time working on movies and things, so I just wait until I can get in to see her. I have tried keratin before, but I didn’t love it, so in between seeing Rose I just try to make sure to use good products. When I’m working I have to wash my hair every day because of how much styling they do and how many products they put in it. I find washing it really satisfying, but I do try and push it to every second day when I can so I don’t put it through too much.

I’ve been working with Thanks to Nature, and I like to use their mask once a week, which is really lovely. I appreciate that its ingredients are naturally derived and that it doesn’t contain any parabens or sulphates. So I’ll shampoo, comb through my conditioner, then pop on the mask and let it work while I’m shaving my legs. I mean, who the hell has time for those masks where you’re meant to get out of the shower and hang around all wet with your hair in a shower cap for half an hour and then get back in to rinse it out? If I can’t use it while I’m already in the shower, it’s not going to happen.

My mum is not into beauty at all, she’s such a tomboy. The only thing she taught me about beauty was to moisturise my body, and to this day that’s the only beauty thing she does! I have taught her everything else!

I guess I can put my love for body products down to her. I’m not usually that into oils, but Clarins sent me their Tonic Treatment Body Oil, and I’m getting into that. It’s amazing. There’s one product I use after every single shower, though, and that’s Nivea Q10 Firming Plus Body Lotion It’s great because it’s not oily, so I can put clothes on straight way after putting it on. It. Is. The. Best! Make sure you get the one with the Q10 in it, though.

Every so often I’ll use an exfoliating mitt while I’m in the shower, basically whenever I remember, or if I know I’m going to put on fake tan. I have a love hate relationship with fake tanning. I’m not massively into it, but sometimes I feel the need! I either go to a lady who lives just near me for a spray tan, or just put some on myself at home; I don’t mind St Tropez or Bondi Sands. I do hate the whole faff, but I think most of us feel better with a bit of a glow.”

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Images, including header image, supplied by Thanks to Nature, and from Instagram @adanicodemou.

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